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Ministerial Pay – The Frankenstein’s monster that won’t go away?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 22, 2011

Joshua Chiang/

When the proposal to benchmark ministers’ salaries to those of the top six highest earning professions was first mooted in Parliament in 1994, then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew defended the largely unpopular move by prophesizing proclaiming:

“I say it (the ministerial pay increase) is necessary … in five to 10 years, people will acknowledge that it works, and this formula will be accepted as conventional wisdom.”

Admittedly, it was before he established himself as the forecaster extraordinaire, but a cursory glance at comments on any popular socio-political websites would suggest that far from being accepted as ‘conventional wisdom’, the issue continues to rankle many Singaporeans.

A video of a 2007 Parliament speech by Worker Partys’ Chairperson Sylvia Lim is only the latest potshot taken at the high salary Ministers and senior civil servants are drawing that has gone viral.

Clearly, the Minister Mentor stands corrected. But 17 years is nonetheless a very long time. It begs the question – why does the issue continue to matter so much?

Weak justifications

A short answer would be- because the arguments for it were never convincing in the first place.

Among the justifications was that it would prevent corruption. But even when the proposal was still being debated, people were already questioning its logic.

Mr David Ng, a shipping superintendent told the Straits Times on October 1994:

“Nobody can say for sure that people with low incomes will be corrupt, and those with high incomes will not be. Look at footballer Michal Vana, he was paid so much and yet he took money.”

Not to mention that there always had been relatively few cases of high-level corruption.

Since the proposal was approved that year, the total amount paid to ministers had increased from $17 mil a year to $21 mil in 1994, to a staggering $75 mil this year, leaving some to wonder at the rationale of paying so much money to prevent the occasional pilfering.

Then there was the argument of attracting and retaining top talent.

Teo Chee Hean, then-Minister for Defence and minister in charge of the civil service, said in 2007:

“We don’t want pay to be the reason for people to join (the government). But we also don’t want pay to be the reason for them not to join us, or to leave after joining us.”

(In that he was spot-on – few from the public sector wanted to join despite the handsome pay; the latest slate of PAP newbies new faces was largely made up of ex-military men and unionists, and few have left, even though some are way past their retirement age.)

But if the latest rise in the number of people leaving the public sector were any indication, it is that high salary does not necessarily translate into loyalty. And even if it were true that those who left were attracted by the marginally higher pay of the private sector, the question remains as to whether those were the kinds of people who should be in the civil service to begin with.

The Minister Mentor was more apocalyptic. If the ministers were not paid astronomical salaries, poor governance would result.

“Your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people’s countries,” he foretold in2007.

If only the leaders of the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma had heeded his advice.

If you can’t convince them…

A survey conducted by the Straits Times in 1994 just prior to the approval of the proposal, 32 people felt that the benchmarks were too high as compared to 25 who felt they were valid. Some members of Parliament also felt uneasy. (Then) Nominated MP Walter Woon suggested putting the issue to a referendum, but the older Lee stuck to his guns.

According to a Straits Times report, he said that most Singaporeans “were not in a position to judge as they had not experienced the difficulties of drawing top men into political office”. (“Will S’poreans back SM Lee’s judgment on White Paper?” ST 2 Nov 1994)

The latest round of increases revisions which saw senior officials, including ministers, receiving up to eight months’ worth of bonuses was also debated in a similar manner. DPM Teo brushed off WP Chief Low Thia Kiang’s observation of a 30-per-cent increase in FY2010 in the estimated salary for political appointments:

“All this was fully explained and debated in this House when the Government last made major salary revisions in 2007 and there has been no change to the system since then.”

If it’s decided, that settles it. Unfortunately, the public disagreed till this day.

Lacklustre performance

In the four years since the last major pay hike in 2007, few Singaporeans see a corresponding improvement in the quality of their lives. The city-state now faces a multitude of problems brought about chiefly by a lax immigration policy – rising housing prices, traffic jams, overcrowding of public transports. The government is perceived to have run out of ideas with regards to the economy. There are also shocking blunders, such as the Mas Selemat fiasco, the Orchard road floods and the Youth Olympic games splurgingoverspending, which leave many convinced that the ministers’ performance do not match their fat paychecks.

Part of the reason is the criteria on which the pay and bonuses are pegged, The bonuses are based solely on GDP growth, which is poor indicator of a country’s well-being. John Tan of the Singapore Democratic Party puts it succinctly:

“In a good year, even if every minister does nothing, the GDP would go up. In a bad economy, a government would typically pump money to stimulate it. That act in itself would contribute to the increase in GDP.”

In other words, the house always wins.

However, for so long as bonuses are pegged to GDP growth, there will be little incentive – other than altruism – to focus on improving the other key social indicators of a healthy society.

Public Service is sacrifice

But perhaps the most important reason that it still matters, and will continue to matter, is what public service means to ordinary people. There is a near-universal and timeless appeal of the idea of the public servant being one who works tirelessly for the welfare of the people, and who sees service as privilege, not a burden. While his pay may not be commensurate with those of highest earners, he is rewarded nonetheless with similarly important intangibles like respect and reverence from the common folk. It is the kind of respect that many rich people have tried, but failed to buy.

In many instances, the establishments’ pointed defense and frequent complaining that Singaporeans are not able to see the pay increase in perspective come across as unbecoming of people in the high echelons of public office. But really, it shouldn’t act so surprised to be met with scorn if it chooses financial rewards over respect and admiration.


The impact of continuing down this road isn’t merely an economic one. The social contract between the government and the governed is a delicate balance that has been increasingly upset by the government’s insistence to reward itself the way it deems fit. Already we see increasing cynicism towards even the most well-intended policies, and stinging rebuke for even the slightest blunders (which has often been attributed to a more ‘sophisticated’ public, as if education is to be blamed).

It is very hard to convince people that ‘everyone matters’ when on one hand the government is stingy with social benefits but on the other hand generous with rewarding its own ‘sacrifices’. It is a perception that no amount of baby cuddling, hand-shaking with cleaners and dressing just like residents can change. This cannot be good for the nation.

In Mary Shelley’s famous novel, Dr Frankenstein’s unearthly creation was never far from him wherever he went. Likewise the abomination that is the obscenely high ministerial pay will seldom be far away from people’s mind whenever they think of the PAP.

But the difference I guess, is that the PAP loves its monster.

Also read Zynfandel’s blog



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

I won’t take middle-ground positions – Chia Ti Lik

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 12, 2011

by Deborah Choo

There is not enough scrutiny at how the police exercise its power,” Chia Ti Lik tells me. We are seated in his office at Tanjong Pajar on a Friday afternoon, and the lawyer/politician is responding to my question on which are the most memorable cases he had handled in his eleven-and-a-half years in the legal profession.

He doesn’t quite answer the question, preferring instead to explain how his experiences as a lawyer solidified his desire to enter politics. For Ti Lik the continuous lack of change in the power structure within the country has led to the executive and the police “getting very comfortable with their jobs”:

“There is no impetus on the other branches of government to seriously cross-check on them,” he says. And correcting this “lopsided system” that weighs unfavorably against the accused is the main reason why he entered politics.

Ti Lik is no newcomer to the political scene. He had been at various times linked to the Workers’ Party (he was in the party’s Central Executive Committee for a year-and-a-half), the defunct advocacy group SG Human Rights (disbanded in 2008), and later the Singapore Democratic Party (he claimed he was never an official member).

Now at 37, he is the probably the youngest Secretary-General of a political party in Singapore, the Socialist Front, formed in  September 2010.

Interestingly enough, the new party has taken on an old name. ‘Socialist Front’, translated into Malay is the Barisan Sosialis, the breakaway faction of the People’s Action Party (PAP). The party was officially dissolved in 1988. According to Ti Lik, his party’s name is a tribute to the members of the Barisan Sosialis who were detained during the enactment of Operation Coldstore in 1963.

But the connections with the PAP doesn’t end there. Ti Lik used to be a member of the PAP.


When did you join the PAP?

I think it’s in 1999. That was when I first qualified as a lawyer, because prior to that I was more active with my Taekwondo training group in the Community Center. My brother was active in the YEC (Youth Executive Committee) so I got dragged into the YEC. The YEC had some links to the MP (Member of Parliament) so I ended up meeting some of the people who are helping the MP – who was Chng Hee Kok at that point of time.

How long were you with PAP?

I think I let my membership lapsed. I was only active maybe a year or a year-and-a-half. I was certainly already inactive by the time the year 2001 General Elections came because by then I had already formed my opinions that I was not going to add to their strength. ‘Add to their strength’ meaning I know the Opposition is very weak, and it’s like the problems in society as well as the nation, if you trace back properly and (if) you don’t find excuses for the PAP, actually the PAP is the cause. Even though I was a PAP member still, I was rooting for the Opposition to do well in 2001. They didn’t do well.

Right. You were just an ordinary member?

Ordinary member.

So after that when you left, it was after the GE that you joined SDP is it?

After the GE in 2001, I was convinced – utterly convinced – that this state of affairs cannot carry on.  So what happened was that at that point of time, I wanted to do something but I was not gutsy enough. So I tried to get people to contest as independents in the coming General Elections. I spoke to quite a lot of people, friends included, and of course independents are often not taken seriously. Like what we wanted to do was have an impact – get a group of independents to contest a GRC.

To contest a GRC? That’s quite ambitious.

Yes, very ambitious, overly ambitious. A GRC that other people don’t want to go. But to do so, you have to make contact and they (the Opposition) have to trust you to reveal their plans to you so that you won’t end up with a three-corner fight.

So I already spoke to my group, I told them, “sooner or later we must make contact with the Opposition so that they know that we are serious fellas, they know who we are, they trust us enough to know that no one going here, so you all go here this round.” But each time when I came close to organizing a meeting, people (from my own side) backed out. I was so frustrated.

In the process I made contact with Steve Chia and Ken Sun (from National Solidarity Party); I made contact with Yaw Shin Leong from the Workers’ Party. Each time my guys backpeddled. I came to a conclusion that if my guys are not going to move, I’ve to lead by example. So what I did was I told them, “I’m not going to wait for you guys, if we’re going to carry on like that, nothing will be done.” So I arranged to meet Shin Leong, Sylvia (Lim) Dr Poh (Lee Guan) plus (Lee) Wai Ling. At the first meeting I told them I’ll join the Workers’ Party.

So when was it that you joined Workers’ Party?

I joined the Workers’ Party officially on the 27th April 2004.

Did you hold an important position with WP?

I moved up to the CEC, I was holding (the position of) Assistant Organizing Secretary and I took part in the elections – Team leader of East Coast. I was re-elected into the CEC after the elections, same position Assistant Organizing Secretary.

There were differences so I left the party in November 2006.

So where did you go after leaving WP?

After that I was actually trying to take a break for a while, and I was like just enjoying my time as a free man! (laughs) It was until the call of activism came. That was when I started getting a bit more involved with the non-partisan activists. You know SG Human Rights?

Chia Ti Lik with activist Seelan Palay and filmmaker Ho Choon Hiong outside the Botanical Gardens on 19th March 2009 to protest the naming of an Orchid after Burmese junta leader Than Shwe

That was the time I got to know Rizal (activist Isrizal Mohamed Isa), M Ravi, Seelan (Palay), (Ng) Kai Xiong – I mean, a large number of them are aligned to the SDP (Singapore Democratic Party) now. During the ASEAN summit (in 2007) we did try to present a card to the ASEAN- I think we tried to present it to the secretary to pass it to Aung Sung Suu Kyi or something like that. Yeah that was one of the high points –we did a procession from Orchard MRT station to the place that they stopped us from going further at Shangri-La. ( Read about the protest here.)

The card didn’t get through right, did it?

I don’t know what happened to it. I won’t know what happened to it. (laughs) Yeah, it was all over in the news. I heard that it was on front page of some of the news in the region.

Those were the crazy things we did. But I was just tagging along although the photographs showed me to be the one at the front.  Rizal, Seelan, Choon Hiong were the other three – they were very much more experienced in that sense and to tell the truth, my courage and resolve was actually borrowed from them.

What issues were you particularly concerned of that made you go into activism in the first place?

You cannot allow the PAP to be so strong, if not you have a lopsided situation in the political scene. So I tried to go to the independents – independents refused to move, right, so I joined the Opposition. In the Opposition, I saw the internal politics. I got out. And then there are a group of people who are not partisan-political but they want to do things. Fine, let’s put our eggs together, see what can be done – try to change the world some way or the other a bit you know. So that’s why I got into that.

And it turned out that the group of activists was leaning towards SDP, this was how I found out I also overlapped into SDP and got to know them a bit better. Officially I’m not a member and was never a member with SDP.

Never considered joining SDP?

Well, how do I put it? (long pause)

Did you meet Dr Chee?

Yes I did.  A good working relationship is more important than membership – that was how I felt.

And then the next political party is actually your own party already right? That was in 2010.

Yes, 1st September 2010.

Why do you want to set up your own party?

Right, there’re a number of political parties in Singapore already but they all have their established practices and culture, and there’s also certain people who are entrenched in those parties. To a certain extent, I’ll call that “baggage” – resistance towards doing new things or same things in a different way. Right, so I decided against expending energy trying to change things from within. I decided to take my chances outside in a new setup.

How do you think your party differs from the rest?

Okay, first and foremost we took an ideological position, an ideological standpoint which I daresay the rest of the parties have not taken. This manner of adopting an ideological position is a bit more old style, old fashioned. And I think though it’s different and the rest of the parties are not doing it, it need not necessarily mean that it’s dropped. It may just mean that people need a little bit of time to get reacquainted and get used to it.

What exactly is this ideological standpoint that you mentioned?

We believe in socialism, left-leaning, and socialism basically is an economic and political model that has got certain attributes to it and that is actually state control of essential parts of the economy (means of production) such that the wealth can be distributed in a manner that is more towards the masses.

Are there any other differences that you feel sets your party aside?

Chia Ti Lik at TOC's Face To Face Forum in November 2010

We felt that in running a country, you can’t be like so piecemeal. You probably need to have an overall picture – how the country is supposed to be, and for there to be consistency in policy, I believe and then you know you have shortcomings, and then you accept the shortcomings and then you have strengths and you build on the strengths. So that is why we took the Socialist model.

Where are you guys contesting by the way?

We will be making announcements after the meeting is finalized.

When did you start thinking of setting up your own party? And how did you go about getting people?

It probably started in the beginning of 2010.

Oh that’s quite- okay that means you got the people quite fast.

Yeah quite fast but it was not easy because you strangely, sometimes people would help a party and then next level they’ll join the party, but to set up a party is actually unnerving for some people.

Yeah, because you’re starting from scratch.

From scratch and then some people would, just even lending name, they say okay I’ll fill in the form. You need ten founding members, but you have this situation where you’re in limbo but you can’t hit the ten. When we finally hit the ten, we decided to get eleven then we file. So we had eleven founding members. We didn’t want to have a situation where we file the application and then the next day someone says, “please take my name out”.

I believe we’re the smallest party. It’s true we don’t have a full force so we have to bear in mind what we take on.

Do you feel that ever since you entered politics, especially the Opposition, you have lesser friends? Are there people who are unwilling to associate with you?

Win some, lose some.

But you never regretted your decision to enter politics until now?

Never, never.

On your blog, I read that you once said that “Fear is the last thing an opposition party should have. Fear is what paralyses a people when they face an arrogant and high-handed government.” What made you make this statement?

Well, my sense was that Workers’ Party then was not- was pulling its punches more than they should? I do have my fears. Even the process of entering the Opposition was, you take steps at a time.

But how did you overcome your fears?

Face it. The key was to acknowledge it, then face it. After facing it you’ll realize actually there’s nothing to fear about it, and you get immunized and you get emboldened. And of course to say the truth, everything that they (PAP) throw at us – each and everything they throw at us – only serves to embolden us further.

It’s a bit like training. Honestly the hurdles they – the PAP – place, the establishment places in front of us can only serve to make us stronger.

Do you feel you’ve changed ever since?



I’ve mellowed. (laughs) Bolder, but mellowed. Bolder because you’ve seen more stuff, faced more stuff, you’ve received more knocks. And more mellowed means you don’t get too excitable about different things now, it’s more of like, “okay if it looks good, let’s build on it.” If it looks bad, you’re (still) not going to die from it. That’s the difference I guess.

Can you tell me what kind of person do you think you are?

I think I’m quite an open person. I tend to be more of a straight talker. I also tend to be a bit… I won’t take middle-ground positions; I will look at the problem and if I think that the problem is this, and the way to address the problem is this, I will take that step. I will not try to please people for the sake of pleasing them.

You also said on your blog that “A viable opposition party must dispel that fear and rise to the role it is supposed to take. You have to face the fear head on, look at it inside out – face the fear within you, come to terms with it and not be controlled by it.” What do you think your party is now doing to dispel the climate of fear?

I can’t say that we are doing a lot now to dispel the fear but I think our continued presence on the scene – participation as well as voicing the issues – would help in that direction, at least to show the people who know me that I’m doing this, I’m still alive, I’m still walking around so don’t have to worry so much.

For the coming elections, what kind of voters are you targeting? Are you targeting a specific age group?  I would think the older generation tends to be more conservative compared to the young nowadays so is there a specific age group you will be targeting?

We just try to sell our ideas which may not be easily acceptable to the electorate at large and hopefully a majority within a certain place would buy into our idea and support us.

Are you able to share the proposals you’re coming up with?

We are a small party so we’re not in the position to influence policy in a proactive way. What we can do is basically criticize policies. To come up with policies there is a bit of a dilemma in it because you will never be in a position to implement them.

But basically more of, if you ask us, what we are trying to sell is ideology – how our country should be and that’s our map and our blueprint of what it should be in our view.

Do you have a clear vision of where your party is headed to? I don’t mean this election, but say ten years down the road.

I have, but I may not be at liberty to disclose it. We have an idea but I won’t say it’s fixed or carved in stone; it’s just at certain direction to take and we will adjust the plans accordingly and the path accordingly as we go along.

A lot of my friends are telling me, if you want the Opposition to be strong, they should unite together. Do you think there is a possibility?

Unity is very difficult because all of us have different characters, different egos, and different ways of doing things. A forced marriage can be worse than no marriage at all. You can have everything, everything courting but not fighting each other – that would be good enough. The problem is that there’re a number of multi-cornered fights that you’re looking at. It’s actually very disappointing.

Okay a lot of people on the ground are actually speculating that the PAP will still win but the margin would be very much lesser. It appears that many people are so fed up recently that they are willing to vote for any Opposition.

Fair enough. You ask me, I might be wrong. And I think I just tend to be prophetic on polling dayresults upcoming or just plainly wrong in the reading on the ground would be that I think it won’ttranslate into votes. I think this time round the ground, somehow or the other has not shifted. I think the Opposition will perform badly this round. My reading is that it won’t translate into areading better than 2006.


The Opposition has got so much bad press recently – bad news, in fighting. And we haven’t gottenour act together, we are looking at multi-cornered fights in some places. I think it’s bad, it’s verybad. And of course we will try to help the situation when you attend our press conference right after the meeting.

Have you ever thought of giving up and just leaving Singapore?

No,  because if you leave it doesn’t solve the problem. The next place that you go to may not be perfect as well, and even then you have to start from scratch over there meaning you’ve to build a new life, build an attachment to the place. I rather try to change this place here because this is where my friends and family are. And also, I grew up here so somehow or the other familiarity in the environment around you.

You were married before right?


No new development in your personal life?

No new development, yeah. I would hope to have but I guess in the position that we are in, very few women would want us. (laughs)

Did they realize you are from the Opposition and then didn’t want to date you?

Okay to be fair, I think I’ve always been very upfront. So at the right moment I’ll just give them the details and I’ll frighten them a bit – acid test very early.

Were they afraid because you’re in the Opposition?

I guess two aspects – one aspect is because you’re in the Opposition, and time is taken in politics. Career has to take a slightly backseat, so is social life. Then you talk about the risks that come with being in the Opposition. Of course that may result in massive changes in your financial abilities and strengths when something happens. I guess those are factors which women generally look at in terms of security.

Were there any good stories as in because you’re in the Opposition so the ladies like you?There will definitely be good and bad right?

Yeah that’s true, that’s true. (laughs) I think to a certain extent, you do feel admiration from some of them because like wow, you dare to do the things you do, you know.

Yeah not a lot of people have the guts to do it.

Yeah but I know you dare to do the things you do, but I don’t think I want to- (laughs)

Okay, okay. So it’s admiration and it stops there.

It stops there, nothing beyond. So if you ask me, it’s a good thing also because I don’t like facades and I don’t like window dressing things. So if no one wants to be with me, accept it and just live accordingly.

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Former RP members join NSP

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 10, 2011

The National Solidarity Part (NSP) has received a boost to its campaign for the upcoming General Election. Members of the breakaway faction of the Reform Party have joined the NSP.

The confirmation was announced by the NSP’s President, Mr Sebastian Teo, at a press conference at its party headquarters, Thursday.

The new NSP members include Mr Tony Tan, Ms Hazel Poa, Mr Jeisilan Sivaligam and Ms Nor Lella Mardillah.

The Online Citizen will have the full report soon.



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Do adult S’poreans support the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 29, 2010

The government has always insisted that S’poreans support the death penalty. TOC takes to Raffles Place in this latest installment of TOC TV to see if adult Singaporeans support the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.


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The Mandatory Death Penalty – views from young S’poreans

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 21, 2010

TOC TV takes to the streets to ask young Singaporeans their views on the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking in Singapore.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 12 Comments »

The tabernacle of respect

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 13, 2010

Tng Ying Hui

Recently the internet has been abuzz with news of a scantily clad woman who was molested at Sentosa Siloso beach party by four men. Bystanders, instead of taking action whipped out their phones for an exciting scoop (Read more here), mistaking such pejoration for a vignette. There has been speculation that the ‘woman’ in question was in fact, a transvestite, but this would be to gloss over the real story.

First truth : Video voyeurism

The truth is that we are increasingly obsessed with digital media. The hours spent on internet increases drastically with each generation, with online social networking through Youtube(ing) and Facebook(ing) becoming part and parcel of our lives. These habits are supplemented by our increasingly sophisticated handphones, which unfortunately have also been increasingly abused to exploit the vulnerability of others. Perhaps it is time to pause and reflect on the decadence that has plagued our society.

Addiction to video voyeurism masquerading as affirmative “citizen journalism” is a reflection of a distasteful social psyche. Our privacy, once sacred, now trembles on the precipice. Guard the new age weapon – camera phones! Erratically alive with a variety of clips, the internet has become a platform to upload anything of interest to us, but we abuse it by neglecting the feelings of those involved in the clip. We should be prudent in our decisions, bearing in mind the decency and privacy of the subjects of our impromptu videos before we unveil them for all to see on the internet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rebutting Law Minister K Shanmugam

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 13, 2010

Donaldson Tan

Sometimes, one can’t help wondering if the Law Minister K Shanmugam is eyeing the the Education Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen’s job. After all, the Ministry of Education is seen as a crucial stepping board to senior ministerial position within the Cabinet, such as the positions of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

In a recent PETIR editorial, K Shanmugam suggested to introduce comparative political system to the classroom, further blurring the line between state organ and party organ. Already the line is blurred in Singapore.

Blurring the line between state organ and party organ

For starters, the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) is a party organ that performs a function of a Select Committee. The GPC is not qualified by the Singapore Constitution and it was introduced 2 years after the then MP for Anson JB Jeyaretnam first mooted for a Select Committee to examine the decision and processes of each government ministry, in 1985, in order to balance the powers of legislative branch with that of the executive branch of the government. While the GPC performs the role described by JB Jeyaretnam, it forms a hurdle for the Opposition to become an alternative government as the Opposition cannot participate in GPCs.

In the editorial, K Shanmugam emphasised the agenda of maintaining PAP’s hegomomy in Singapore. He wrote, “One could conclude as long as PAP stays true to its principles and deliver progress, it should remain the dominant political force. But the conclusion is not so clear cut.” He goes on to say, “One factor which may potentially weaken its [PAP’s] appeal is its ability to communicate its fundamental message to a younger electorate.” Are we in the danger that a state organ such as the Ministry of Education is morphing into a party organ? Read the rest of this entry »

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TOC Poll – Vote your favourite logo

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 12, 2010

The Online Citizen has been without a logo for the past 3 years. The TOC Team has been deliberating on the logo design on the long and we have to yet to arrive at any consensus, so we leave the decision to our fans. Please choose wisely. Polling closes on midnight 17 January 2010.

Choose your favourite TOC Logo.(polls)

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Give credit where credit is due, Andy

Posted by theonlinecitizen on May 9, 2008

Andrew Loh

A recent public forum about youth concerns raised the issue of lowering the voting age to 18.


Perhaps a post-1965 Member of Parliament might initiate the debate to enfranchise these trustees of our posterity.

Andy Ho, Senior Writer, Straits Times, May 8, 2008, “If old enough for NS, why not the vote?”

The above are quotes from Ho’s article. The first one is the very first line of his piece, and the second one the very last sentence from it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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A brief message from TOC

Posted by theonlinecitizen on May 4, 2008

Dear everyone,

We are featuring four articles and a video this weekend. To allow our readers easy access to them, here is a summary:

Singaporean activists mark World Press Freedom Day 2008

To mark World Press Freedom Day 2008, a group of Singaporean independent activists held a demonstration outside the Singapore Press Holdings’ News Centre building on May 3.

Youths call for right to vote at Youthquake forum

The Workers’ Party Youth Wing (YPYW) launched its inaugural YouthQuake forum series today on the topic “Should Singaporean Youths be Allowed to Vote at 18?” The public forum, targeted at youths, took place at the party’s headquarters in Syed Alwi Road.

James Gomez gives TOC exclusive update

James Gomez, an opposition candidate in the general elections in 2006, is in Singapore currently. TOC met up with him and asked him what he’s been up to. (Video) We apologise for the slight noise in the background in the video.

Homophobia Part 1: MDA censors the family

Writer Ng Yi Sheng gives his take on the Media Development Authority’s fine on Mediacorp for broadcasting a programme on Channel Five which Showed “an episode of a home and décor programme named Find and Design that happened to feature two men in a loving relationship, converting their game room into a nursery for their new adopted baby.”

Homophobia Part 2: Under attack from the police

Yi Sheng relates how the police raided a “gay sauna”, named One Seven, last Friday. “Though none of the clients were arrested, the 74 year-old owner, Sam was injured by the supervising officer and arrested and jailed overnight for allegedly having assaulted the officer, a charge that he denies.”


TOC will also be featuring a write up by Gerald Giam on Viswa Sadasivan’s speech which included the issues of leadership in government and the local media.

Also, coming soon on TOC will be well-known psychotherapist Anthony Yeo’s article on the Mas Selamat issue and what needs to be done before Singaporeans can “move on”.

It’s an interesting week for TOC and hopefully also for you, our readers. Some of the articles contain, undoubtedly, controversial issues. It is our hope that everyone here will engage in civil and respectful discourse and avoid name-calling or profanities.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have responded to our call to join us. It is indeed very heartening and encouraging to see fellow Singaporeans offering to give us a hand.

We also thank those of you who have written in to us with words of support.

Lastly, TOC will be moving to a new site with a new layout soon – as we approach our 1,000,000th hit in the stats count. We’re looking at perhaps end of this week. So if you visit our site and find it looking different, don’t worry.

It’s just the new TOC. 🙂

Thanks, everyone!


Andrew Loh

On behalf of the editorial team.


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5 Minutes With… Leong Sze Hian on NTUC discounts

Posted by theonlinecitizen on May 2, 2008

TOC spends 5 minutes with Leong Sze Hian and asks him for his views on the issue of NTUC FairPrice’s discount vouchers for needy Singaporeans.

(Reference: Straits Times report – “FairPrice extends 5% discount to end-July”.)

TOC: In the Straits Times report – referenced above – NTUC Chief Lim Swee Say announced that NTUC Fairprice will be extending the discounts on NTUC housebrand products till the end of July this year. He said that “the discounts cost the supermarket chain $4.5 million in all” and that “it was a ‘big stretch’ on FairPrice’s bottom line.”

Is it true that the $4.5m it costs FairPrice is a “big stretch on FairPrice’s bottom line”? What was Fairprice’s profits last year?

Sze Hian: NTUC FairPrice’s profits increased by 89 per cent from $53 million in 2006 to $100 million in 2007. ( – pdf file)

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COI report: Reactions from the Internet

Posted by theonlinecitizen on April 22, 2008

Breaking News: PM Lee says ministers shouldn’t be automatically removed for lapses down the line. More from Channel NewsAsia.

The following is an aggregation of reactions from the Internet to the Committee Of Inquiry’s report and DPM Wong’s statement on Mas Selamat’s escape.

Diary of A Singaporean MindMas Selamat: 3 steps to freedom

“Shame on you conspiracy theorists – Mas Selamat did not die, Mas Selamat did not have insider help, Mas Selamat did not go through the toilet bowl. He simply climb out of the toilet window and jumped over the fence. That’s it! Nothing to it – simple….THE END…THAT’S ALL FOLKS….”

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